Microsoft announced a new version of the Surface Pro last week, along with the Surface Laptop Studio. The Surface Pro 8 feels very much like a logical evolution of Microsoft’s tablet / laptop. Some of the more notable improvements include a 120Hz display with slimmer bezels, Thunderbolt 4 support, as well as a reworked surface keyboard that includes a dedicated space to store and charge the new Surface Slim Pen 2.
Meanwhile, the Surface Laptop Studio features a uniquely hinged screen and more powerful hardware. This is effectively a replacement for the Surface Book 3, with a three-point adjustable display that can lay flat for drawing or snap upright to deliver a more traditional laptop experience. This laptop comes equipped with an Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti GPU and a four-core, 4.8GHz, 11th Gen Intel processor.
Perhaps the coolest thing to come out of the event was the Surface Slim Pen 2, which aesthetically appears like any other stylus, but includes haptic feedback to simulate the subtle tactile response you get from putting a pen to paper. While the inclusion of a stylus is hardly revolutionary, improvements to the overall user experience are nice to see.
But how do the new Surface Pro 8 and the Surface Laptop Studio stack up against other laptops that occupy the creator and power user space? We’ve collected a few of our favorites below for comparison based on our early impressions and spec sheets, with full reviews to follow in the coming weeks.
We chose the 14-inch models of the HP Spectre X360 and the Acer ConceptD Ezel because of their competitive pricing, which includes a stylus, and also for their ability to reorient themselves in some creative ways. (The new Microsoft devices don’t include the Surface Slim Pen 2, which costs $130 separately.) The Spectre is technically a 2-in-1 and can operate effectively as a tablet if you flip the screen over, though it doesn’t hold it up at an angle quite like the Surface Laptop Studio. The ConceptD Ezel, meanwhile, can flip out its screen and prop itself up like an easel or lay flat like a tablet.
We also threw in the Laptop Studio’s predecessor, the 13.5-inch Surface Book 3. The screen may not fold or flip, but it can still operate as a tablet when detached from its keyboard. We considered adding the 15-inch version of the Surface Book 3, but its starting price of $2,300 made it just a little too expensive when stacked against its competition.
Still, the Surface Laptop Studio sets itself apart by offering a greater battery life and likely a superior dedicated GPU option to any of these other machines. It also has the distinction of being the only laptop in our lineup with a 120Hz refresh rate display, a feature typically reserved for gaming laptops. You’d generally need to look at a gaming-class laptop if you need a higher-end GPU.
Versus the Surface Pro 8
The unique form factor of Surface devices makes them tough to compare, but the Lenovo Yoga 9i and Apple MacBook M1 Air make a strong case as ultraportables outside the Surface ecosystem that cater to creatives, and we’re also including the previous-gen Surface Pro 7 for comparison.
Like previous generations of Surface, the new Surface Pro 8 doesn’t come with a pen or keyboard to start. The new Slim Pen 2 and Surface Pro Signature Keyboard will cost you $130 and $180, respectively, but can also be bundled for $280. Obviously, the other laptops we’re discussing come with built-in keyboards, and the Yoga i9 includes the pen as well.
The new Surface Pro 8 is Microsoft’s biggest upgrade in years. The forthcoming 2-in-1 touts Thunderbolt 4 support, a 120Hz display, a better camera, and a more modern appearance.
The Lenovo also shares many of the same hardware specifications as the Surface Pro 8, with options for an 11th Gen Core i5 or i7 CPU. It does make a couple of compromises, most notably in the resolution and refresh rate of its display. These caveats could be overlooked by anyone who needs to save a little more money, though.
The MacBook M1 Air is really the outlier of this lineup, not just because of its OS, but because it’s also the only laptop we picked that doesn’t have a touchscreen or can operate as a 2-in-1. It does, however, strike a solid balance in terms of features, performance, and price.
The biggest draw for the Surface Pro 8 — besides its unique form factor — is the display, which boasts the highest resolution and refresh rate out of the contenders below. It’s also the only model that features a 4K rear camera.